Review: The Caged Queen by Kristen Ciccarelli

Title: The Caged Queen (Iskari #2)
Author: Kristin Ciccarelli
Genre: Fantasy, Dragons
Source: Wunderkind PR
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: September 25th 2018
Hardcover, 400 pages

Summary: 
Kristen Ciccarelli’s distinct brand of lyrical, haunting fantasy continues in the companion to her bestselling debut, The Last Namsara. Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and Renee Ahdieh. Once there were two sisters born with a bond so strong that it forged them together forever. Roa and Essie called it the hum. It was a magic they cherished—until the day a terrible accident took Essie’s life and trapped her soul in this world. Dax—the heir to Firgaard’s throne—was responsible for the accident. Roa swore to hate him forever. But eight years later he returned, begging for her help. He was determined to dethrone his cruel father, under whose oppressive reign Roa’s people had suffered. Roa made him a deal: she’d give him the army he needed if he made her queen. Only as queen could she save her people from Firgaard’s rule. Then a chance arises to right every wrong—an opportunity for Roa to rid herself of this enemy king and rescue her beloved sister. During the Relinquishing, when the spirits of the dead are said to return, Roa discovers she can reclaim her sister for good. All she has to do is kill the king.


As I said in my review of The Last Namsara, why did I wait so long to read these books?! The Caged Queen was full of twists and turns that left me on the edge of my seat for the entire book. It also gave another view of the rebellion that Dax, Roa and Safire successfully pulled off and it continued building onto the magnificent world that had Kristen created. 

Instead of The Caged Queen following Asha, this book focuses on Roa, the Scrublander and heir to the House of Song turned Queen after marrying Dax in The Last Namsara. Tensions between the Scrublanders and the Draksors are at an all time high, and many are looking upon their new queen with disgust and contempt. Never mind the fact that every believes that the King has been sharing everyone's bed but his wife's. Roa only agreed to the marriage to help save her people by creating a stronger alliance, but it isn't going as planned. Before Dax showed up in the Scrublands several weeks prior, Roa hadn't seen him in eight years. Not since the night that her sister, Essie died. Dax isn't the King she imagined him to be and soon in desperation to save her people Roa is plotting against him. But soon she begins to fall for the King she swore to hate. 

The tension between Roa and Dax through out this book is thick enough to cut with a knife. I found them both to be very prideful characters and at certain times that got in the way of them actually seeing each other. Roa spends a huge chunk of the novel believing that Dax is sleeping with someone close to her and Dax assumes that Roa is still in love with the boy she betrayed back home. I think what I loved most about Dax and Roa relationship was that their story wasn't neat and linear. It was messy and scattered. They had their highs and they had their lows but at the end they found where they belonged. The romance in The Caged Queen pulled at my heart strings, something that a novel hasn't done in a long long time. 

For all the mystery that surrounded Ellie's death and why Dax was at fault, I was dissapointed. I expected something a lot bigger and dramatic then when actually happened. Especially for the amount of hatred and contempt that Roa had held for Dax. 

Overall I really loved The Cage Queen and loved being able to see the brief return of Asha and Torwin at the end. I am super excited to read The Sky Weaver and finally have my hands on Safire's story and her adventure. She has become one of my favorite characters through the series so far and I can't wait for more of her. Thank you so much Wunderkind PR for the opportunity to read and review this series! 






Check out my review of The Last Namsara!
*Click the cover below to be redirected*

Blog Tour: Day Zero by Kelly deVos (Excerpt!)



Hi! Hello! Happy Thursday and welcome to our stop for the DAY ZERO blog tour that Inkyard Press has put together! Amber had the opportunity to read DAY ZERO earlier this year and enjoyed it! Below there is an exclusive excerpt and if you love that we highly recommend ordering a copy because this book can not be missed for this year! 

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ABOUT DAY ZERO!
 Title: Day Zero
Author: Kelly deVos
Publication Date: 11/12/19
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Summary: If you're going through hell...keep going. Seventeen-year-old coder Jinx Marshall grew up spending weekends drilling with her paranoid dad for a doomsday she’s sure will never come. She’s an expert on self-heating meal rations, Krav Maga and extracting water from a barrel cactus. Now that her parents are divorced, she’s ready to relax. Her big plans include making it to level 99 in her favorite MMORPG and spending the weekend with her new hunky stepbrother, Toby. But all that disaster training comes in handy when an explosion traps her in a burning building. Stuck leading her headstrong stepsister, MacKenna, and her precocious little brother, Charles, to safety, Jinx gets them out alive only to discover the explosion is part of a pattern of violence erupting all over the country. Even worse, Jinx’s dad stands accused of triggering the chaos. In a desperate attempt to evade paramilitary forces and vigilantes, Jinx and her siblings find Toby and make a break for Mexico. With seemingly the whole world working against them, they’ve got to get along and search for the truth about the attacks—and about each other. But if they can survive, will there be anything left worth surviving for?
BUY DAY ZERO!


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ABOUT KELLY!

KELLY DEVOS is from Gilbert, Arizona, where she lives with her high school sweetheart husband, amazing teen daughter and superhero dog, Cocoa. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Arizona State University. When not reading or writing, Kelly can typically be found with a mocha in hand, bingeing the latest TV shows and adding to her ever-growing sticker collection. Her debut novel, Fat Girl on a Plane, named one of the "50 Best Summer Reads of All Time" by Reader's Digest magazine, is available now from HarperCollins. Kelly's work has been featured in the New York Times as well as on Salon, Vulture and Bustle.

Keep up with Kelly: Website / Twitter / Facebook / Instagram / Goodreads

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EXCERPT!
Dr. Doomsday’s Guide to Ultimate Survival
Rule One: Always be prepared.
I exhale in relief when MacKenna pulls the car into the Halliwell’s Market parking lot. Because of the Sugar Sales Permit waiting list, old stores like these are the only places that carry Extra Jolt soda. I have to buy it myself, because Mom won’t keep any in the house.
She thinks too much caffeine rots your brain or something. Halliwell’s is a squat brown building that sits across the street from the mall and is next door to the town’s only skyscraper.
The First Federal Building was supposed to be the first piece of a suburban business district designed to rival the hip boroughs of New York. The mayor announced the construction of a movie theater, an apartment complex and an indoor aquarium. But the New Depression hit, and the other buildings never materialized.
The First Federal Building alone soars toward the clouds, an ugly glass rectangle visible from every neighborhood, surrounded by the old town shops that have been there forever. Most of the stores are empty.
We park in front of the market.
Our car nestles in the long shadow of the giant bank building.
Charles gets out and stands on the sidewalk in front of the car.
MacKenna opens her door. She hesitates again. “Listen, I know you might not want to hear this or believe it. But my book report wasn’t about hurting you or getting revenge. I’m trying to get you to see what’s really happening here. That Carver’s election is the start of something bad. We could use you at the rally. You’re one of the few people who understands Dr. Doomsday’s work. You could explain what he did. How he helped Carver cheat to win.”
“I’ve been planning this raid for months,” I say. My stomach churns, sending uncomfortable flutters through my insides. I don’t know what it would mean to talk about my father’s work. What I really want to do is pretend it doesn’t exist. Pretend the world is normal and whole.
I reassure myself with the reminder that there’s no way MacKenna is going to the rally either.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Charles give us a small wave. Before MacKenna can say anything else, I get out and grab my backpack.
Inside Halliwell’s, I pick up a blue basket from the stack near the door. The small market is busy and full of other people shopping after school or work. The smell of pine cleaner hits me as we pass the checkout stations. They are super serious about germs and always cleaning between customers.
I leave MacKenna and Charles at the Click N’Grow rack near the door to check out the seed packets that my brother collects. Dad got Charles hooked on this computerized gardening that uses an e-tablet and a series of tiny indoor lights to create the ideal indoor planter box. Each week, they release a new set of exclusive seeds. Their genetic modifications are controversial.
All the soda is in large coolers that line one of the walls of the market. They keep the strange stuff in the corner. Expensive root beers. Ramune imported from Japan. And! Extra! Jolt! I put a few bottles of strawberry in my basket. I snag some grape too. For a second, I consider buying a couple of bottles of doughnut flavor. But that sounds like too much, even for me. The chips are in the next aisle. I load up on cheese puffs and spicy nacho crisps.
MacKenna and Charles are still at the rack near the door, and I try to squeeze by them without attracting any notice. I usually don’t buy unhealthy snacks when I’m with my brother. I smuggle them in my backpack and have a special hiding space in my desk.
My brother has type 1 diabetes, and he’s supposed to check his blood sugar after meals. He can have starchy or sugary snacks only when his glucose level is good or on special occasions.
MacKenna grimaces at a packet of seeds in her hands. “I still don’t like this one. It’s pretty. But still. It’s…carnivorous.”
I have to hand it to her. She really does have a look. She’s pale and white, like me, but she manages to seem like she’s doing it on purpose and not because she’s some kind of vampire- movie reject. Her glossy black hair always rests in perfect waves, and if the journalism thing doesn’t work out, she could definitely have a career in fashion design.
Charles smiles at her. “It’s a new kind of pitcher plant. Like the Cobra Lily.” He points to the picture on the front of the seed packet. “Look at the blue flowers. That’s new.”
 “It eats other plants,” MacKenna says.
“You eat plants.”
“But I don’t eat people,” MacKenna says. “There’s got to be some kind of natural law that says you shouldn’t eat your own kind.”
Charles giggles.
So far so good. Until.
My brother trots up behind me and dumps a few packs of seeds in my basket. His gaze lands on my selection of soda and chips. “Can I get some snacks too?”
Crap.
 I freeze. “What’s your number?”
Charles pretends he can’t hear me. That’s not a good sign.
“Charles, what’s your number?”
He still doesn’t look at me. “I forgot my monitor today.”
“Well, I have mine.” I kneel down and dig around for the spare glucometer I keep in the front pocket of my backpack. By the time I get it out, MacKenna has already pulled Charles out of his blazer and rolled up the sleeve of his blue dress shirt. I wave the device over the small white sensor disk attached to my brother’s upper arm.
After a few seconds, the glucometer beeps and a number displays on the screen.
221
Crap. Crap. Crap.
“Charles! What did you eat today?”
My brother’s face turns red. “They were having breakfast-for-lunch day at school. Everyone else was having pancakes. Why can’t I have pancakes?”
I sigh. Something about his puckered up little face keeps me from reminding him that if he eats too much sugar he could die. “You know what Mom said. If you eat something you’re not supposed to, you have to get a pass and go to the nurse for your meds.”
My brother’s shoulders slump. “I couldn’t go to the nurse. Hummingbirds were visiting the Chuparosa and…”
Charles is on the verge of tears and frowns even more deeply at the sight of my basket full of junk food.
“Look,” I say. “There are plenty of healthy snacks we can eat. I’ll put this stuff back.”
“That’s right,” MacKenna says, giving Charles’s hand a squeeze. “We can get some popcorn. Yogurt. Um, I saw some really delicious-looking fresh pears back there.”
“And they have the cheese cubes you like,” I add.
We go around the store replacing the cheese puffs and soda with healthy stuff. I hesitate when I have to put back the Extra Jolt, but I really don’t want to make my brother feel bad because I can drink sugary stuff and he can’t.
We pay for the healthy snacks and the seed packets.
 I grab the bags and move toward the market’s sliding doors.
I end up ahead of them, waiting outside by the car and facing the store. The shopping center behind Halliwell’s is mostly empty. The shoe store went out of business last year. Strauss Stationers, where everyone used to buy their fancy wedding invitations, closed two years before that. The fish ’n’ chips drive-through is doing okay and has a little crowd in front of the take-out window. Way off in the distance, Saba’s is still open, because in Arizona, cowboy boots and hats aren’t considered optional.
I watch MacKenna and Charles step out of the double doors and into the parking lot. Two little dimples appear on MacKenna’s cheeks when she smiles. Charles has a looseness to his walk. His arms dangle.
There’s a low rumble, like thunder from a storm that couldn’t possibly exist on this perfectly sunny day.
Something’s wrong 
In the reflection of the market’s high, shiny windows, I see something happening in the bank building next door. Some kind of fire burning in the lower levels. A pain builds in my chest and I force air into my lungs. My vision blurs at the edges. It’s panic, and there isn’t much time before it overtakes me.
The muscles in my legs tense and I take off at a sprint, grabbing MacKenna and Charles as I pass. I haul them along with me twenty feet or so into the store. We clear the door and run past a man and a woman frozen at the sight of what’s going on across the street.
I desperately want to look back.
But I don’t.
A scream.
A low, loud boom.
My ears ring.
The lights in the store go off.
I’ve got MacKenna by the strap of her maxidress and Charles by the neck. We feel our way in the dim light. The three of us crouch and huddle together behind a cash counter. A few feet in front of us, the cashier who checked us out two minutes ago is sitting on the floor hugging her knees.
We’re going to die.
Charles’s mouth is wide-open. His lips move. He pulls at the sleeve of my T-shirt.
I can’t hear anything.
It takes everything I’ve got to force myself to move.
Slowly 
Slowly 
Leaning forward. Pressing my face into the plywood of the store counter, I peek around the corner using one eye to see out the glass door. My eyelashes brush against the rough wood, and I grip the edge to steady myself. I take in the smell of wood glue with each breath.
Hail falls in the parking lot. I realize it’s glass.
My stomach twists into a hard knot.
It’s raining glass.
That’s the last thing I see before a wave of dust rolls over the building.
Leaving us in darkness.

*Excerpted from Day Zero by Kelly deVos, Copyright © 2019 by Kelly deVos. Published by Inkyard Press.*



Thank you so much Inkyard Press for inviting us to be a part of this blog tour! We really enjoyed Day Zero and we are super excited to be sharing to love for it! 💙

Top Ten Tuesday: Changes In My Reading Life in 2019!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl in which we create bookish lists about everything from our favorite characters to love triangles and everything in between!

This week's theme: Changes In My Reading Life in 2019!


1. I can't read for long periods of time anymore. I use to be the kind of person who could sit down for hours at a time and read a full book. Since coming back from my blogging hiatus in 2017 my attention span is pretty short and I find that I can read about a hundred pages before I get super antsy. There have been a couple of books where I can read a lot more of it, but more often then not I'll get antsy. Regardless of how much I am enjoying a book! 


2. My reading time has cut in half. In September I started a new job at Lush as a floor leader. Besides having to learn the ropes of the products and ingredients I also have to learn the floor leading part as well. I been working a lot of hours and learning a lot of things. It also has required me to study a lot because there is so much to memorize. But regardless of that I am extremely happy there and I hope I'll have more reading time once my training is over! 


3. I don't read YA contemporary romance anymore. At least for review copy purposes, I will read a blacklisted one occasionally. It's very rare that I do read a YA contemporary anymore and it's simply because I am no longer the targeted age group for the genre and I can't relate with the characters. Which if I am not going to enjoy it and I know I'm not, why am I going to leave a negative review behind when I know I didn't like it because I am too old for it? It isn't fair to the author or the book. There are a few I will attempt to read though and a few that I have loved. But it has been very far and few in between for me to find one that I enjoy. 


I know that this is only three changes but I couldn't think of anymore! What are some changes in your reading life in 2019!? Leave the link to your Top Ten Tuesday below so I can stop back! 

Review: The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

Title: The Last Namsara (Iskari #1)
Author: Kristen Ciccarelli
Genre: Fantasy, Dragons 
Source: Wunderkind PR
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: October 3rd 2017
Hardcover, 432 pages

Summary: 
In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer. These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl. Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.


I am still a bundle full of emotions from this book. The story. The characters. The World. Kristen is a masterful story teller and did not disappoint in her debut novel. I don't know why I waited so long to start the series because it had everything I love in a fantasy novel: forbidden romance, tons of action, amazing characters and intricate but expertly explained world building and lets not forget DRAGONS! Thank you Wunderkind PR for reaching out about reviewing this series (the review for The Caged Queen and The Sky Weaver are coming in the next week!) and moving it up on my TBR. 

When Asha was a child she told the forbidden ancient stories to the First Dragon, Kozu, and when she refused to he burned her. Eight years later Asha is the King's Iskari, a title she has earned by becoming the fiercest and most deadliest dragon slayer there is. No matter how many dragons Asha kills she will never have her freedom. After Kozu burned parts of the kingdom of Firgaard to the ground in his anger of denial of the stories, the kingdom looks upon Asha with disgust and contempt. But one person knows the secret of that night: the cruel commandant Jarek, who the King has promised Asha's hand to. But as the day come closer the King offers Asha a deal: Bring Kozu's head to him and she won't have to marry Jarek. But as Asha starts to unravel the secrets of Firgaard and the secrets of herself with the help of Torwin, one of Jarek's slave everything she has grown to know is questioned. 


Kristen's world building was amazing. It was easy to understand the world she created and I loved the ways she did it. There was no info dump and she added more detail to her world as was needed. I enjoyed how the chapters alternated with the forbidden stories, I found that it added to the world and gave me more of an understand of the culture and why Asha continues to question why they are forbidden and if they truly are dangerous after all.  

I loved Asha's character and her growth through out the novel. I will admit, at first I did not like Asha at all. I found her harsh, mean and in her interactions with Torwin that she believed she was above him. More then half of the book she had referred to him as "slave" even though she did know his name. BUT by the end of the story I loved her character and her growth. Asha opens herself up to love and the possibility that everything she knew has been a lie. I found Asha from the first half of the book and Asha at the books ending to be two different characters and I loved that. I am super excited to see Asha's growth through out the next two books. (Even though she isn't the main character in those, they do take place after this book so I am excited to see.) 

I am a sucker for forbidden romances, so the fact that Asha falls for Jarek's slave sucked me right into the story even more. I ship it and by the end of the book I was crying for both characters. (Happy or sad tears? You have to read to find out!) 

Conclusion: Dragons are air puppies. That is all I have to say. 

Overall I really enjoyed The Last Namsara and I can't wait to read The Caged Queen and to witness Dax and Roa's story. Thank you again Wunderkind PR for the opportunity to read this book, all thoughts and opinions are my own! 


Blog Tour: Secrets of the Great Fire Tree by Justine Laismith (Excerpt, Interview + Giveaway)


Happy Sunday! Welcome to our stop in the Secrets of the Great Fire Tree blog tour! This was suppose to go up a few days ago, but Amber messed up a few things and we sadly had to move it to today. Regardless we are still super excited for this amazing book to be visiting today! Make sure to check out the excerpt and then head over to the other blogs that are participating! Today we have an exclusive excerpt, interview and giveaway!!! 

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ABOUT SECRETS OF THE GREAT FIRE TREE! 
Title: Secrets of the Great Fire Tree
Author: Justine Laismith
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Publisher: Aurelia Leo
Date Published: May 28th 2019
Summary: A Boy. His Pendant. A Magical Tree. In rural China during the New Year celebrations, Kai receives devastating news. A poor harvest spells disaster unless his mother accepts a job in the city caring for a wealthy family. Abandoned in his mountainous village, Kai is desperate to bring his mother home. He gives in to superstition and unlocks the secrets of the Great Fire Tree. The Great Fire Tree will grant Kai’s wish—for a terrible price. With the help of his new friend Xinying and his trusted piglet, Kai will make a sacrifice to make his family whole. Justine Laismith weaves together Chinese mystique and rural charm in an enchanting tale of an antidote that kills and an amulet that curses. 

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Excerpt!

Kai fetched his basket. It was wide and deep enough that if he curled himself into a ball, he could fit in it. Two pieces of cloths were tied to it in a loop shoulder length apart, forming the shoulder straps for him to carry the basket on his back. Yee Por held the basket for him while he threaded his arms through.

With the bucket inside and Piglet on a rope, Kai descended toward the thick bushes. Down the mountain path and past the soft green that grew around the clearing to his favorite Dragon’s Pearl Tree, the tall tree with enormous fruit that went uneaten. To Kai, it was such a wasted effort; even more so last year when the tree tried to brighten up the dry season with heavy blossoms. They were unusual flowers; instead of branches, they stuck out directly from the trunk. But like any flower, the petals fell and produced its fruit.

“The birds would not eat them, so we mustn’t eat them either.” He remembered what Ma had said.

Every tree and every rock down that familiar path to the river reminded him of Ma, how he used to charge ahead with Pink Belly, whacking the bushes and frolicking in the clearing until Ma caught up with them.Today, he did not feel like playing with the new piglet in the same way.
He had always gone with Ma to fetch the water. She was stronger and carried the bigger bucket. He carried the smaller one. It only took fifteen liters.

Without Ma, the road back was windier and more treacherous. The burden of the water weighed him down as he lumbered upward. Thank goodness Piglet was only tiny and seemed to know how to handle the uneven terrain, grass or rock, upward or downward. He rested his tired legs and shoulders every few meters. But each time he stopped, he listened for voices. He did not want to be caught resting by the school bullies. Especially now he was on his own.

On one of these breaks, he heard a rustle. Then a pair of huge feet appeared on the path. 

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INTERVIEW!

Tell us a little bit about yourself!
I grew up in Singapore and studied Chemistry in London. After my PhD, I worked in the pharmaceuticals industry. Since then I have also worked in the chemicals and education sectors. I’ve always enjoyed writing. When I was in industry, I wrote scientific papers. While I did write fiction occasionally, it really only took off around the time I returned to Singapore in 2010. There I entered a local writing competition. As a winner, my children’s book The Magic Mixer was published. It’s a chapter book about two women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). By that time, I was already in the midst of writing Secrets of the Great Fire Tree. This was the encouragement I needed to keep going.

When did you want to become an author?
I first wanted to be a writer when I was seven. However at school I never did well in languages or literature. When it came to choosing subjects, I would have had to make the difficult decision of choosing what I liked, or what I was good at. My teacher saved me from this. She had expected me to take the Arts/Humanity subjects, because ‘girls are better at them, and boys are better at Math and Science.’ Right there and then I chose the Science options to prove a point.  Over the years, even though I pursued a Science career, the enjoyment of turning blank pages to words never left me. I continued to write poems and stories as and when they came to me, but these were for my eyes only. I also channeled this into my work and wrote scientific papers on my research. After some years, I took a career break. With a break from science, the logical side of my brain took a back seat and let the creative side of my brain dominate. I started writing in earnest.

What inspires your work?
My inspiration comes from all around me. I now pay a lot of attention to my surroundings and how it makes me feel. Then I challenge \myself to describe it in words. When I watch a movie or show, I don’t just take a seat and enjoy the ride. I think about what makes me root for the characters, or hate them. I also analyse how and why two personalities who started off with nothing in common come together as the story develops. When I’m out and about, I take pictures of nature and buildings. You can check out them out on my Instagram account (www.instagram.com/justinelaismith). The collection might seem like random lots of pictures, but they help me crystallize my thoughts on the setting in my stories.

Can you tell us how Secrets of the Great Fire Tree came about?
I returned to Singapore after living in the UK for twenty years. Even though, when I left the UK it was in the summer, it struck me how, in Singapore, the place is teeming with life. Not because it is a bustling city, but because there is growth everywhere I look: the tall trees with buttress roots, the thick waxy leaves, the climbers that form green veils and the ferns that live on other trees. The long absence from Singapore meant I saw this tropical country with a new set of eyes. Instead of taking my surroundings for granted, I appreciated their uniqueness, in particular, the many magnificent tropical trees in Singapore. While I have read books set in tropical forests, they tended to be about survival in the wilderness. I wanted to highlight some of the unique trees instead. So the Great Fire Tree was born. As for the main characters, the story came to me over the dinner table during Chinese New Year. I was told this story: A group of charity workers had found a little boy living on his own. He had a pig. His parents had gone away to work and his sole responsibility was to look after the pig until his parents’ return to celebrate Chinese New Year. He lived in a mountainous area, and his house was the only one in the area. They reckoned he was about six years old. It wasn’t a first-hand account, and I never verified the story’s details. But it moved me. To leave behind a six-year old and let him fend for himself for an entire year, the conditions at home had to be desperate. When I delved deeper, I learnt about left-behind children. I needed the world to know about this. This was how I started weaving a plot around the Great Fire Tree.

What was the best part about writing Secrets of the Great Fire Tree?
I grew up in Singapore, a country proud of its multicultural identity. This exposed me to a plethora of languages and Chinese dialects. I am also part-Paranakan, which is a unique blend of two cultures: ethnic Chinese people who speak and practise Malay customs. To give my heritage its representation, I subtly incorporated these diversities in a story that’s supposed to be set in China. A native Singaporean might to spot these ‘anomalies’. Nonetheless, because I also wanted to make this story authentically Chinese, I carried out a lot of research. I enjoyed going right back to my roots. Ultimately, the Chinese diaspora’s experience of their culture will be different from the indigenous Chinese. Part of this research included a trip to China, where I made several notes about their lifestyles. I’ve documented them in a series of blog articles. (https://justinelaismith.wordpress.com/great-fire-tree/setting/)

What are you most excited to share when it comes to Secrets of the Great Fire Tree?
I am most excited about sharing the rural life in China. As I mentioned earlier, I see myself as a third-culture kid, who never really knew her roots. China holds a quarter of the world’s population and consists of over fifty ethnic minorities. Naturally, I cannot tell everything in one story, but I hope I managed to give a flavor of this fascinating culture.

Are you planning on writing other books?
Absolutely. Ideas just keep popping into my head. I started another middle-grade book which is set in ancient China. I am finishing off two chapter books. I also have two general fiction books on the go. In the last few weeks, a dystopian world has been brewing in my mind. Just before I started this Q&A, I penned the first words of a non-fiction book. In case you follow me on Twitter or Instagram and ever wondered about my train of thought, all these different worlds collide together on social media!
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GIVEAWAY!

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TOUR SCHEDULE!



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Thank you so much Justine for reaching out for us to be a part of your book tour! We had a blast and can't wait for you to stop by again! 💗

Blog Tour: Crown of Oblivion by Julie Eshbaugh (Spotlight & Giveaway!)


Hi! Happy Friday and welcome to our stop on the Crown of Oblivion blog tour that is being hosted by The Fantastic Flying Book Club. We are super excited to be a part of this tour since Amber LOVED Julie's debut duology and has been eagerly awaiting Crown of Oblivion! Make sure to follow to check out the rest of the tour to see some amazing reviews, quotes, playlists and inspiration boards and enter the giveaway to win a finished copy of Crown of Oblivion


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ABOUT CROWN OF OBLIVION!
Title: Crown of Oblivion
Author: Julie Eshbaugh
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: November 12th 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Synopsis: Astrid is the surrogate for Princess Renya, which means she bears the physical punishment if Renya steps out of line. Astrid has no choice—she and her family are Outsiders, the lower class of people without magic and without citizenship. But there is a way out of this life—competing in the deadly Race of Oblivion. To enter the race, an Outsider is administered the drug Oblivion, which wipes their memory clear of their past as they enter a new world with nothing to help them but a slip of paper bearing their name and the first clue. It’s not as simple as solving a puzzle, however—for a majority of the contestants, the race ends in death. But winning would mean not only freedom for Astrid, but citizenship and health care for her entire family. With a dying father to think of, Astrid is desperate to prevail. From the beginning, the race is filled with twists and turns. One of them is Darius, a fellow racer Astrid meets but isn’t sure she can trust. Though they team up in the race, as Astrid’s memories begin to resurface, she remembers just who he was to her—a scorned foe who may want revenge. Astrid also starts to notice she has powers no Outsider should—which could help her win the race, but also make her a target if anyone finds out. With stakes that couldn’t be higher, Astrid must decide what is more important: risking her life to remember the mysteries of the past, or playing a cutthroat game in order to win her—and her family’s—freedom.
Buy CROWN OF OBLIVION!

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ABOUT JULIE!
Julie Eshbaugh is a YA writer and former filmmaker. She made two short films and then spent several years producing an online video series for teens which received several honors from the Webby Awards. Her new YA fantasy standalone, CROWN OF OBLIVION, is coming from HarperTeen November 2019. IVORY AND BONE (HarperTeen 2016) and OBSIDIAN AND STARS (HarperTeen 2017), her prehistoric fantasy duology, are out now. You can learn more about Julie’s writing escapades by visiting www.julieeshbaugh.com.
 Keep up with Julie: 

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GIVEAWAY!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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FOLLOW THE REST OF THE TOUR!

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